The Blurb On The Back:
Suzie Wen LOVES inventing things – but after one of her inventions goes wrong, Suzie finds herself sucked into her favourite TV show – SPACE BLASTERS!
Now on board AN ACTUAL SPACESHIP with her new friends, Suzie is exploring strange planets and meeting plenty of aliens.
But when moons start disappearing, it’s up to Suzie and the Space Blasters to …
SAVE THE UNIVERSE!
SPACE BLASTERS: SUZIE SAVES THE UNIVERSE was released in the United Kingdom on 4th August 2022. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.
You can order SPACE BLASTERS: SUZIE SAVES THE UNIVERSE by Katie & Kevin Tsang from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK. I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
Suzie Wen loves inventing things almost as much as she loves the dumplings that her grandma (po-po) makes for her and Susie’s grandad (gung-gung). Suzie has lots of great ideas, tonnes of enthusiasm and is constantly thinking of ways of making machines to bring them to life.
However, things have been tough for Suzie recently. Her grandparents moved to the coast a couple of years ago, which means that she doesn’t see them as much as she wants to while at the start of the summer holidays Suzie’s best friend Bonnie moved away with her family to live in New York City. Suzie doesn’t have any other friends and her older brother (13-year-old David) is more interested in playing his drums in the garage while her older sister (15-year-old Lizzie) is always out with her friends and both her parents are always too busy working to spend much time with her.
Still, Suzie has her ideas notebook and can watch episodes of her favourite TV show – Space Blasters – about a trio of explorers (Spaceman Jack, Captain Jane and Five-Eyed Frank) who go around saving the universe on their spaceship called TUBS (which stands for The Universe’s Best Spacecraft). That’s when she gets her best idea ever – she should make something that gives her a 3D experience of being on Space Blasters! But when Suzie turns on her Super 3-D TV Gizmo something goes wrong and Suzie finds herself actually on board TUBS with the actual Space Blasters!
As Suzie, Captain Jane, Spaceman Jack and a very suspicious Five-Eyed Frank try to work out just how she’s managed to get herself into their world, the Space Blasters find themselves with a new mission: planetary moons are disappearing from orbit, leaving inhabitants locked in a deep sleep. Only the Space Blasters and Suzie can get to the bottom of what’s going on and save the universe again!
Katie and Kevin Tsang’s SF adventure for readers aged 6+ (the first in a series) has a lot of set-up, which distorts the pacing, and hand waves over how Suzie has found herself in a TV show that’s actually real. That said there is a lot of humour, it conveys how cool science and inventions are (provides bonus facts for readers), Amy Nguyen’s illustrations are lively and fun and there’s a lot of potential for future books, which I would check out.
Because this is the first book in a series, there is necessarily a lot of set up here, which Katie and Kevin Tsang (Katie Tsang perhaps being better known for her children’s books written as Katherine Webber) spend time doing in the first couple of chapters. I totally understand why this is necessary and the fact that the book is told to the reader by Suzie in the first person makes it easier to follow along, but I was waiting for the main action to start. That said, the reader gets the background as to Suzie’s loneliness and feelings of isolation while also understanding that she is clearly very clever and talented with a lot of enthusiasm for engineering new inventions (and in a world where we need more girls to understand that science and mathematics are for people like them I am all for books like this).
For all this though, there is no explanation for how Suzie’s invention has managed to plunge her into the actual TV show, or indeed, why Spaceman Jack, Captain Jane and Five-Eyed Frank are apparently real people having real adventures rather than actors playing characters in a TV show. Instead the Tsangs essentially hand wave over it, presumably as it is something that will be picked up in later books, but I was a bit disappointed that Suzie doesn’t pick up on it given that she expressly states at the beginning of the book that she knows Space Blasters is a TV show and not real. It may be that this is not something that would bother a lot of young readers, but I know that having once been a young reader myself, this is absolutely the first thing I would have wanted to know.
Once the action moves onto TUBS, the pace picks up. Five-Eyed Frank is, in my opinion, going to be the MVP in this series. I enjoyed the quirks about his diet and his suspicions about Suzie and why she’s really there. By turns smart and childish, the Tsangs show how he feels threatened by Suzie’s arrival and although the resolution to this is a bit too quick for my liking, is still well done. Unfortunately in contrast, Spaceman Jack and Captain Jane are fairly bland, stock characters at this stage in the book and essentially seem to be there to provide exposition and background. That said, given that this is a series it would not surprise me if they each develop more as the books go on.
The plot itself revolves around moons disappearing from planets. It’s neatly done, I enjoyed the alien worlds that the Tsangs create (and really, who could resist a babbit?) while Nguyen’s black and white illustrations really help to bring them to life (her pictures of the tangles probably being my favourite as they view the Space Blasters with narrow-eyed suspicion). There are common themes here of loneliness, friendship and the importance of kindness and although that does tie in with Suzie’s feelings of isolation and loneliness, I wish a bit more had been made of it in the book to bring that message home.
One really neat thing about this book is the fact that there are little boxes peppered throughout it that give genuine science facts, which I thought was a neat way of getting younger children interested in science while also linking it to things discussed in the story.
All in all, although I don’t think this book is currently firing on all thrusters (yes that pun is intended and no, I will not apologise for it), there is a lot of potential here for future books and I look forward to seeing where Suzie and the Space Blasters go next.